First impressions count – even the quality of biscuits

A few years ago, I felt my role was not developing the way that I wanted it to, so I responded to a headhunter’s call, who put me forward to meet the HR director of a brand that was looking for someone “just like me”.

The Secret Marketer

The job was in a swanky part of London. I made my way to the office, arriving in plenty of time to the front of their glass-fronted skyscraper. As I looked up, I began to visualise myself getting the role, of turning up for work every day at this fancy address, and walking into the airy atrium that oozed professionalism. I went to the receptionist, who beamed at me with freshly whitened teeth, and showed me to the lift, where I shot up 30-odd floors to be met by another incredibly groomed individual and a view to die for, as the whole city opened up before me.

I was shown into the HR director’s oak panelled office, the size of some of the meeting rooms at my place, served coffee in stunning china cups along with the most melt-in-the-mouth biscuits I have ever eaten. It was hard to take in what she was explaining to me about the role as my eyes soaked up the view and the general environment of the office.

More importantly, my mind wandered back to my own building and what impression a job applicant would get on arriving there. It is a perfectly respectable office but the years of economising and under-investment have taken their toll – the coffee is instant, the biscuits non-existent and meeting rooms small and functional. It lacks ‘wow’ factor.

Now there are two morals to this story. Firstly, first impressions count. When new employees, customers and partners visit your offices, what does the environment tell them about your brand? How can you instil some ‘wow’ factor to make them yearn to be part of your story?

Secondly, I decided not to take the job. Yes I was bowled over by all that I saw, but it just wasn’t enough for me. It was a veneer. When I did get back to focusing on what the HR director was saying, I realised that the job would not excite me, it would not stretch me. 

As the aphorism goes, you can put lipstick on a pig but at the end of the day it is still the same hairy, smelly, farm animal.

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